Celebrating innovation

March 13, 2009 by
Filed under: Education Matters 

I am quietly reassured when I read things in the media like this courtesy of Eric Allison. This week, Timpson, the shoe people, announced a new Academy at Liverpool prison to train up prisoners with a view to employ them on release. Yet another example of some of the fantastic initiatives in this sector. Bravo Timpson!

“In the last year, [Timpson] has taken on 40 ex-offenders, with an impressive 80% retention rate.”

In the spirit of celebrating the work and dedication of those working out there at the coalface, I thought I might mention some of my other favourite organisations, initiatives and schemes going on out there in the CJS minefield.

The Ideas Project, Media for Development

The Ideas Project Team work with prison staff to apply for a grant from UnLtd of between £500 and £5000 to set up and run a project that will benefit other prison staff, the prisoners or both.  Projects have included a homework club at HMP Wandsworth which helped to maintain family relationships by allowing fathers in prison to help their children with homework. Fantastic stuff!

The Good Vibrations Gamelan Project  

Good Vibrations develops team-working, communications and other important life skills, through participating in gamelan (Indonesian bronze percussion) workshops.  Gamelan is uniquely suited to this as it is very accessible – you don’t need to have any previous musical experience, you don’t need to be able to read music, and it’s easy to learn the basics.  It’s also a very communal activity – there is no overall conductor or leader, everyone’s contribution is equally important, and the nature of the music means that you have to listen to everyone else to fit your own part in.  In short, participating in a Good Vibrations project has a sustained and positive emotional and psychological impact on participants, leading to positive behavioural change.  Listen to Lucy Ash talk about the project on BBC World Service

The P.I.P.E Programme at HMP Preston

The P.I.P.E programme. is a series of short term intervention courses which have been developed individually by the PE Officers at HMP Preston.  They range from between 3 to 18 hours and tackle topics such as Effects of Alcohol on the Body, Body Image and Self Esteem, Diversity for Prisoners, Bullying, Gambling, Stress and Anxiety, Supplementing your Goals, Diet and Nutrition, Smoking Cessation and Mental Wellbeing, engaging many prisoners in education who might otherwise exclude themselves.

I could go on and have a long list of many others that I promise to build into my future blogging efforts.  If you’re keen to know more then keep checking the Prison Learning Network website where we will be adding information about all the inspiring innovation taking place right now, even as you read this blog!


  • http://blog.matthewcain.co.uk Matthew Cain

    I bet that opponents of progressive thinking could have an absolute field day with a prison gamelan project. How are projects like this evaluated? That must be key to defending them in public.

    • http://www.theRSA.org Rebeccada

      The Good Vibrations Gamelan Project have had quite a bit of evaluation done on their work which have shown the great potential it has for encouraging positive change. But you’re right Matt, so much of the actual benefits of projects like these that are grounded in arts or drama are so often ones that are either immeasurable or extremely difficult to demonstrate. The PLN will be making recommendations about how the voluntary sector (and others) might work together to oevrcome these issues in it’s report due out this summer.